This redacted pair of letters surfaced two months ago: the first one is a letter from an anonymous law student (or group of students) who wrote to a prof to object to their choice to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt in class; the second, a devastating takedown from the prof, is a tiny masterclass in legal thinking, persuasive writing, and the nature and character of a legal education.
Premise: You have purchased, with your tuition dollars, the right to make demands upon the institution and the people in it and to dictate the content of your legal education.
Critique: I do not subscribe to the “consumer model” of legal education. As a consequence, I believe in your entitlement to assert your needs and desires even more strongly than you do. You would be just as entitled to express yourself to us if the law school were entirely tuition free This is because you are a student, not because you are a consumer. Besides, the natural and logical extension of your premise IS that students on a full scholarship are not entitled to assert their needs and desires to the same extent as other students (or maybe even at all). So, as you can see, arguments premised on consumerism are not likely to influence me. On the contrary, such a premise causes me to believe that you have a diminished view of legal education and the source of our responsibility as legal educators. This allows me to take any criticism from such a perspective less seriously than I otherwise would.
Premise: You are not paying for my opinion.
Critique: You are not paying me to pretend I don’t have one.
Premise: There is something called “Law” that is objective, fixed, and detached from and unaffected by the society in which it functions.
Critique: Law has no meaning or relevance outside of society. It both shapes and is shaped by the society in which it functions. Law is made by humans. It protects, controls, burdens, and liberates humans, non-human animals, nature, and inanimate physical objects. Like the humans who make it, Law is biased, noble, aspirational, short-sighted, flawed, messy, unclear, brilliant, and constantly changing. If you think that Law is merely a set of rules to be taught and learned, you are missing the beauty of Law and the point of law school.
Premise: You know more about legal education than I do.
Critique: You don't.
Law professor's response to BLM shirt complaint [KatakaMaka/Imgur]
Law professor's response to BLM shirt complaint [Transcript/Social Design Notes]